Karl Pohrt, who opened Shaman Drum Bookshop nearly 30 years ago, has decided to close the business on June 30. He plans to continue efforts to obtain nonprofit status for a separate venture, the Great Lakes Literary Arts Center.
The decision comes after many months of financial struggles at the bookstore, which Pohrt outlined in a column published by The Chronicle in February. In that column, he reported that textbook sales in 2008 had declined $510,000 from the previous year. He cut payroll and other operating expenses, but couldn’t cover the shop’s losses. Though trade sales (books of general interest) were up, that didn’t compensate for the loss of textbook sales. “The evaporation of our position has been astonishingly swift,” he wrote. “We had been holding relatively even financially until September. Suddenly we’ve moved into the red.”
In an email sent Tuesday afternoon, Pohrt wrote about his decision to close:
On the advice of my accountant and my business manager, I am closing Shaman Drum Bookshop June 30. Despite a first rate staff, a fiercely loyal core of customers, a very decent landlord and my own commitment to the community of arts and letters in Ann Arbor, it is clear to me that the bookshop is not a sustainable business.
In spite of the downturn in the economy, Ann Arbor continues to be an excellent book town. There are wonderful independent stores here (Crazy Wisdom, Nicolas’s Books), fine specialty book stores (Vault of Midnight, Aunt Agatha’s) and great used bookshops (Dawn Treader, West Side Books, Motte & Bailey). They need your support.
Over a year ago we began a process to become a non-profit center for the literary arts. I am decoupling Shaman Drum Bookshop from the Great Lakes Literary Arts Center, which should simplify and streamline our IRS application. I will pursue this new venture after we close the store.
Shaman Drum Bookshop has been here for 29 years. We had 28 good years. Thank you for your support. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a bookseller in Ann Arbor.